ST. LOUIS – Four of the 16 caddies in this week’s 38th Curtis Cup Match are females. They are young women who have played college golf, know the demanding and sometimes ruthless nuances of the greens at St. Louis Country Club and they absolutely love the game.
Those four women – Bailey Hopper, Gabriela Murcia, Miranda Rohlfing and Daniela Viotti – were handpicked by St. Louis Country Club Caddie Master Donny Meyer to work the Curtis Cup.
They all played college golf at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) and began caddieing at the club last fall. When Meyer learned the Curtis Cup would be coming to St. Louis Country Club, he immediately thought of the quartet and asked if they wanted to caddie.
They couldn’t say yes quickly enough, said Meyer. I thought these four would do an excellent job because they play college golf and I also thought it was important to have some women caddies in this event.
Meyer has approximately 70 caddies employed at the club, about 20 of whom are women. After watching college tournaments in which his caddies play, he observed how relaxed the players were with their friends carrying their bags and felt it would help the Curtis Cup competitors.
I tried to pick the 16 caddies who were really prepared, who could do a good job this week and be able to relate well with their golfers, said Meyer.
Meyer met the four future club caddies at a tournament at St. Louis Country Club last year. Murcia asked the caddie master if he had an extra bib because she was caddieing for her friend. When he asked if she would be interested in caddieing at the club some time, Murcia responded that she would, especially if she could bring her three teammates.
I told her I’d be happy to have them, so that’s how we met and how they got started here, said Meyer.
Caddies and players were paired in a random draw last Sunday. The names of 16 caddies and 16 players were pulled from a hat, which established the player-caddie pairings for the week.
Murcia is working this week for Charlotte Thomas of Great Britain and Ireland and has been advising Thomas about the greens.
Sometimes, you’re not right with your reads, but that’s how you work as a team, said Murcia, who recently graduated from UMSL and plans to return to her native Colombia later this week. If she thinks the putt is going right and I think it’s going left, we look at it again. That’s how it works.In turn, Murcia is learning from her amateur player.
It has been an awesome experience, she added. These girls play at another level.
Murcia’s college teammate and fellow caddie, Viotti, agreed, saying she’s learned from the way top amateurs approach different shot angles, play in the wind and how they handle pressure. She is carrying for Kyung Kim of Team USA.
I think I was more nervous on the first tee than she was, but I didn’t tell her that, admitted Viotti, a recent UMSL graduate. I kept that to myself. After playing four holes with the crowds following, you get used to it.
Still wearing a stick-on American flag tattoo on her left cheek after her morning duty ended, Viotti added that she didn’t know anything about the Curtis Cup before being asked to caddie.
It’s a real honor to be a part of it and now I know now how big it is, she said. To see the names of all the great players who have played in this and to look at them now is amazing.
As for the team chemistry with caddies and players, Viotti said it’s an important component for success. Kim is quiet and reserved as a player, so Viotti focused on trying to help her feel comfortable and relaxed.
We joked around a bit, Viotti added. She was nervous on the first tee, so I told her to try to relax and play like we practiced.
Rohlfing was on the bag of the USA’s Annie Park, who won both of her Friday matches, while Bailey is carrying for GB&I’s Georgia Hall. UMSL’s women’s golf coach, James Earle, has also got in on the action, caddieing for Ally McDonald of the USA.
My player is fantastic and she’s played a lot of golf, so I really don’t have to say too much, said Bailey, who walked 35 holes on Friday.
When the opportunity to caddie at the Curtis Cup first came up, Rohlfing was nervous about working with such highly skilled players.
I thought, ‘Oh, I’m not good enough for that,’ said Rohlfing, who was an alternate to caddie and got the job when another caddie withdrew. This week is a great experience to be up close to these girls and to be able to learn from them.
Park generally likes to read her own putts and doesn’t ask for help unless she is unsure of how the ball will roll. Rohlfing tried to give good yardages and provide helpful local knowledge when possible. The two players chatted mostly about golf and the course.
I told her where she had to be pin-high or the ball will come back, said Rohlfing. And I helped her read the putts on some of her early birdies.
The caddies are already comparing notes about what they have learned this week from their players. Rohlfing, who is a few months older than Park, observed the importance of staying calm throughout the round.
If they hit a bad shot, they don’t get worked up about it, she said. These girls just move on. That’s pretty motivational for me to see and to take into next year.
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.